Every cloud has a silver lining….
Sometimes a common expression becomes so ingrained in our language that we casually toss it into conversation without fully understanding the depth of its meaning. ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ implies that every difficult situation also has the potential to offer a positive outcome. The phrase is often used to encourage someone to look on the bright side of their otherwise unfortunate situation. However, the use of the term in and of itself doesn’t change the circumstances. We must take intentional action in order to find the silver lining.
I have often referred to myself as a ‘silver lining’ person. Give me a negative situation and I go in search of the ‘silver lining’ – the lesson to be learned, the message to be heard, the reason we were faced with that circumstance in the first place. Perhaps it began as a coping mechanism – a way for me to not drown in the negativity of a bad situation. But over time I realized that finding the silver lining was an opportunity to challenge my thinking, to create something positive out of something negative. I didn’t realize how much this had become part of who I was, until I was faced with a life lesson opportunity with my oldest son, Ben.
In the spring of 2011, with just 2 minutes left in his lacrosse game, Ben threw a hard hit to his opponent which resulted in breaking his own left collar bone. It was unfortunate timing for both his lacrosse season and his academic exam schedule. But he kept a positive attitude as he patiently waited out the healing process. After 8 weeks he was cleared by his physician to play again, so he returned to the sport he loved with both enthusiasm and apprehension.
Unfortunately, less than 2 weeks later, he took a hit from a player and again broke his left collar bone. Given that we’d been down this road once before, our drive to the doctor’s office was rather uneventful. After taking x-rays, the doctor returned to inform us that Ben’s collar bone was completely displaced and required a metal plate and screws to hold it together. Surgery was promptly scheduled for the next morning at 8:00 am.
We drove home in silence, both of us in shock by the news and trying to process this unexpected outcome. As the car pulled into the driveway, Ben finally spoke. “Mom, I’m trying to find the silver lining but I can’t. Will you help me?”
That one simple statement instantly caused me to burst into tears. I had never heard him utter the words ‘silver lining’, so the fact that he was in search of one now, meant that all my years of parenting had just paid off! Not only was he trying to find some positive outcome to his heartbreaking situation, he was asking for my help. I told Ben, that unlike a mathematical equation with one right answer and lots of wrong answers, an unfortunate situation could have a variety of silver linings or positive outcomes. A bad situation doesn’t come packaged with a silver lining. It isn’t automatically built into the fabric of the circumstance. The reality is that we don’t find the silver lining…..we get to create it! We literally get to make it up!
We sat in the driveway for over 20 minutes and brainstormed some possible ‘silver linings’ he could create from his injury. Perhaps this would give him more compassion for athletes that face season or career ending injuries. Maybe it would alter his perspective of people who are born with a physical disability. It might be an opportunity for him to discover how resilient and determined he really is. Or perhaps this set back might have him realize that he wasn’t as committed to lacrosse as he thought he was. We even proposed the idea that his injury may offer our family the opportunity to slow down our pace of life and enjoy some much needed time together.
The outcome of our conversation wasn’t that Ben had ‘the’ answer, but rather he had access to create whatever answer would give him the greatest sense of comfort and understanding. When we intentionally set out to design a silver lining from an unfortunate situation, we are creating a positive mindset that brings a sense of peace to our life. The alternative is to submit to being a victim in a situation which leaves us feeling powerless and at the mercy of our circumstances.
What I most wanted Ben (and YOU) to walk away with was the understanding that we get to choose our mindset! We can play out the ‘poor me’ version of a story, or we can choose to create a silver lining to live from!
I’d love to hear what SILVER LININGS you’ve created out of negative situations!
with Joy & Gratitude,